Crimes of Persuasion
11/02/2012 02:44AM ● Published by Style
Studies suggest criminal telemarketers and scammers target seniors with calls, emails and in person.
It’s no wonder because, on average, nearly one in five seniors fall for scams, which nets nearly $3 billion dollars each year for the bad guys. Bernie Madoff and his infamous Ponzi scheme left thousands of people penniless. Even some savvy investors got caught up in his web of lies. There are hundreds of thousands more just like them with the same goal: Live the good life on others’ hard-earned money.
Many people have worked their whole life to save enough money for a comfortable retirement, and it’s unfortunate there are so many thieves now robbing them of their futures. The number one rule for anyone is to question and refuse any unsolicited request for personal information. Most worry they are being unkind to the person on the phone, but remember the National Association of Crime Prevention’s motto: “It’s not rude – it’s shrewd!”
“Although seniors are better informed and savvy, they can still be vulnerable,” says Russ Heimerich, a spokesperson for the California Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA). “Everyone needs to be very wary and take precautions of any offers by telephone, online or at the door.” Always question anyone asking for your personal information. Email is also used by criminals for scams, since many seniors are online.
Following are the top five scams identified by the DCA and tips to avoid being ripped off.
1. PHONE/EMAIL PHISHERS
These folks are looking to steal your identity. Sounding professional, the caller often claims to be an officer of a company or bank. They may explain that your account has been compromised and you need to provide your personal account information to catch the criminal.
TIP: Never reveal any bank or credit account information over the phone or in an email.
2. BOGUS CHARITIES
Sounding sincere in their calls or email correspondence, there are many people who attempt to pull on your heartstrings for cash.
TIP: If you’ve never heard of the charity, don’t immediately donate. Instead, ask for the information to be mailed to you. Then you can research the organization and decide if it’s one that meets your criteria.
3. ILLICIT TELEMARKETERS
These persistent criminals call and offer goods and services you don’t need and often at the most inappropriate times.
TIP: Turn them off by registering your phone on the National Do Not Call Registry at donotcall.gov.
4. CONTRACTOR CRIME
Someone will knock on the door and claim to be a contractor, say they were in the neighborhood and noticed something that needs immediate repair.
TIP: Don’t believe them. If you have concerns, call a licensed contractor to take a look.
5. SWEEPSTAKES SWINDLES
You get a call or email claiming you have won big – even though you don’t remember entering a contest or buying into a lottery. They ask you to send money to cover a fee for collecting your mystery millions.
TIP: Hang up or hit delete.
Don’t be a victim – ask questions, do your research and just say no.
For more information and to request a Senior Scambuster Kit, visit dca.ca.gov/consumer/seniors/scambuster_kit.shtml.